On the eve of his 53rd birthday, Rodger Duvall is headed home — back to the neighborhood in west Salt Lake where he was born and reared, before he became a husband and father, before he became a drug addict and long before he became homeless.
"I'm back home," Duvall said from his new studio apartment at Sunrise Metro Apartments, a 100-unit complex for the chronically homeless. "I'm going to start my life over."
Sunrise, which officially opened its doors Friday with great fanfare, is offering a similar opportunity to 99 other people in similar situations. The complex is the first of its kind in Utah and will provide permanent, supportive housing to individuals who have lived on the streets for years.
"I don't care what your religion or your beliefs are, this is a miracle," said a tearful Rosemary Kappes, executive director of the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City. Kappes is credited as the heart and soul of the Sunrise project.
The facility will follow the "housing first" approach that has proven effective in other parts of the nation. On-site case management will be available, but not mandatory, for residents. Two of the building's four floors will be designated as "dry," meaning no drugs or alcohol allowed, but the other floors have no alcohol restrictions. Residents will be allowed to come and go as they please, although there will be security on site.
"This is going to be remembered in history as a real turning point for how we work with those who are chronically homeless," said Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Eighty of Sunrise's 100 apartments have been leased, with the others expected to be filled in May. Residents will begin moving in April 5.
Duvall's new home, with its twin bed, small dining room table and limited cookware, isn't anything fancy. But it is much better than anywhere he's been lately, especially jail, where he spent seven months on a drug charge, he said. Duvall will pay 30 percent of his income — about $370 from his monthly Social Security check — for rent and utilities.
Duvall is grateful and surprised at the work that has gone into getting Sunrise off the ground, particularly the heartfelt dedication to people in the homeless community.
"It's overwhelming," he said. "Just overwhelming."
The multimillion-dollar project started with two $600,000 donations from the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation and the Crusade for the Homeless, headed by local philanthropist Jack Gallivan. Additional private donations followed, as well as federal, state and local funds.
"You can see how this has blossomed and how it has pulled us together, which is one of the strengths of this community," said Palmer DePaulis, former Salt Lake mayor, now director of the state Department of Community and Culture.
"This is the beginning," he said. "This is the catalyst. This is the tipping point, if you will."
Sunrise represents a major step forward in the state's 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. A second permanent housing facility is already under way in South Salt Lake, where officials broke ground on that 84-unit apartment complex in October.